Vitamins and supplements have become big news in recent years, part of this is down to an increase in the number of people becoming vegan and therefore requiring supplements to enable them to get some of the nutrients they may be missing out on from the lack of meat and dairy in their diet. Some of the nutrients you are particularly at risk of being deficient in if you are vegan are iron (from the lack of any red meat, although there are many vegetables high in iron, you just need to eat a lot more of it) and calcium from the lack of dairy products. Calcium is a particularly important nutrient as it keeps your bones strong and stops you becoming frail or developing certain conditions like osteoporosis or arthritis.
The other main reason that sales of supplements and vitamins have shot up in the last year or two is down to the COVID-19 pandemic. People started to put a lot more focus on their immune system and ensuring it was as strong as it could be therefore sales of Vitamin D and Zinc increased massively. These two supplements are central to a healthy immune system so people were taking high strength versions of them, many taking up to 4000IU of Vitamin D a day which is right on the boundary of what is safe to take. In winter time it’s difficult to get your daily recommended allowance of vitamin D, particularly if you are a fair way from the equator, in the summer a 10 minute sit in the sun in the summer around midday is all you require but in the winter supplements are essential. With only around 7 hours of sunlight and the sun being at a lower intensity, as well as many people spending large portions of their day indoors, many people become deficient.
So you know why you might need supplements but should you be taking them as individual higher strength supplements or have them as part of a multivitamin? Much of this is down to why you are taking them. If it is just part of your daily routine and a lifestyle choice to be healthier then multivitamins would be fine, you get a lot more vitamins so they are well balanced but they are at much lower strengths, taking them consistently and daily should mean that you have good baseline levels of them that would be topped up in your diet by eating fruit, veg, dairy, meat and fish. If however you have a specific deficiency or are prone to a certain deficiency then you would be better off taking individual supplements rather than multivitamins. A great example of this is in people with anaemia, the levels of iron in a multivitamin are far lower than that found in a specific iron tablet and you will need to ensure you are taking in high levels of iron on a regular basis to keep anaemia at bay. Most multivitamins are one a day and therefore you can’t just take 4 or 5 them to up the dosage, this could be very dangerous to your health.
It is important to once again reiterate that taking in vitamins and nutrients via your diet is more important than supplementing. If you have a balanced diet then you shouldn’t need supplements unless you have a particular health condition. Taking nutrients in via your diet is more effective as it stays in your body for longer during the digestion process and has more time to get in to your bloodstream. Vitamins in tablet form tend to pass through your body quicker and a lot of it comes out in your urine so never actually gets in to your body properly to give it any benefit, this is why the levels of vitamins in multivitamins are so much higher than you would typically see in food, because it is well know that a lot of it goes to waste.
So, if you have a particular health concern and you need to ensure you are getting high levels of a particular vitamin, make sure you are taking individual supplements as the levels in a multivitamin will be far too low for you. If however you are just looking to live a healthy lifestyle and ensure you don’t become deficient in any vitamin then consistent, daily usage of multivitamins is the best option. There are a variety of different types of multivitamin, some are more tailored towards women who require different levels to men and others are geared towards being taken once a day rather than two or three times. Multivitamins are also available as capsules and even gummy bears to make them easier to take or to make them more appealing to children.